How can a substance made from bees’ saliva benefit human health? Find out in this week’s Nutrition News that covers the very latest in nutritional research.

The benefits of propolis

Honey is frequently thought of as a healthier alternative to refined sugar but few people are aware that bees also produce other healthful substances. Propolis is a resin that bees create from their saliva, beeswax, and substances from plants and trees, which bees use to seal gaps in their hives to keep out intruders. It’s also thought that propolis has antimicrobial properties to help protect bees from pathogens, which is also why some people believe it has useful properties for supporting human health.

According to this Medical News Today article, there are as many as 300 separate compounds in propolis, including polyphenols, such as flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties.

Given these properties, it is thought that propolis could be beneficial in healing wounds, oral health, inflammation and even working against cold sores. While propolis is generally considered safe as a food supplement, due to the wide range of substances it includes, it is important to purchase from a reputable company who carries out testing and checks to ensure its purity.

Curcumin to offer neuroprotection?

Curcumin, which is the primary bioactive compound of turmeric, is regarded to hold anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and now a recent study suggests that these properties could even support brain health in offering neuroprotection.

The study was based on the knowledge of curcumin’s ability to bind to metals, such as aluminium, which led the study’s authors to believe that it could offer neuroprotection from the metal’s potentially toxic effects. It’s thought that brain health is compromised by exposure to neurotoxins, such as metals like aluminium, which is of particular concern as a result of relatively high consumption in modern western diets and lifestyles.

The findings of the study, which were reported by NutraIngredients, suggest that turmeric extract and purified essential oil of turmeric actually reversed the cognitive impairment displayed by aluminium exposure. As aluminium is a prevalent toxin that is relatively unavoidable in modern society, the findings on the potential benefits of curcumin are encouraging, however, more research would be needed to draw conclusive results.

Foods that support and weaken the immune system

The immune system is a vital part of our body’s defences against foreign bodies and nutrition plays a huge role in delivering immune system support, with certain foods supporting it and other foods weakening it. This article by Medical News Today evaluates some of the best, and worst, foods for our immune system.

Some foods that may benefit the immune system include:

  • Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons are a great source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that supports the immune system.

  • Foods containing zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral that, much like vitamin C, is vital for supporting the immune system in functioning normally. Foods that are a good source of zinc include oysters, beef, baked beans, cheese, peas and chicken breast.

  • Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli contain sulforaphane, which is also thought to support the immune system.

  • Garlic

The anti-inflammatory effects of garlic are thought to benefit the immune system.

  • Ginger

Much like garlic, ginger is renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties that support the immune system.

While there are a number of foods containing properties that benefit the immune system, there are also some foods that are known to weaken it. This includes processed foods such as microwave meals that contain excess additives to maintain taste and shelf life, with a number of studies linking these additives with obesity, immune inflammation and insulin resistance. Food high in sugar can also have a negative impact on the immune system as they can reduce the effectiveness of white blood cells and potentially increase inflammatory markers in the blood.

The immune system is an incredibly important tool in keeping us healthy so it’s important to carefully consider the breadth of food consumed in your diet to support it as best you can.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is Director and Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.